Willy Jump & Amy Ashworth – PFLAG Moms from Nederland

NYC Gay Pride March 1992

NYC Gay Pride March 1992

Parents of Gays  briefly became POLAGM – (Parents of Lesbians & Gay Men) & ultimately PFLAG (Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays). My suggestion to the PFLAG board one year to follow our course of reflecting inclusion in our organization’s name was to call ourselves PFLABAGASTER – Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Bisexuals & Gays & Sometimes Transgendered. They didn’t go for it.

My mother, Willy Jump, first marched with me at the National Gay & Lesbian March on Washington in 1979, of which I was part of the planning in 1978 in Philadelphia as representative of Gay People at Queens College. We went backstage to meet some of the National POG parents and NYC parents, Amy Ashworth being the woman my mom was drawn to immediately since they look like sisters (and later became as close as sisters). I also met the British gay rock & roller Tom Robinson, with whom I became pen-pals for a year and later visited in London in 1980.

1980 was my Mom’s first NYC  Gay & Lesbian March. I had been marching with my girlfriend from John Adams High School, Elaine Calenda since 1976 (the Bi-Centennial Summer of Love). I told my mom to meet me on the corner of  Bedford & Christopher Streets an hour before the march actually begun it’s illegal lurch uptown towards Central Park- thinking it wouldn’t be that crowded yet. I’m not sure when the first legally obtained permit for the march was but it was a march until it became a parade.

So here I am looking for my Mom amongst the throngs of leather queens, drag queens, dykes on bikes and twinks screaming, “MOM!  MOM?” on a nearby lightpost that I had climbed up. Almost immediately this handsome older guy with an impish smile and  a little space between his teeth came up to me and tugged my pantleg shouting over the din in an incredibly coarse voice that seemed incongruous to his appearance – putting his fingernail up to his mouth to hide his incredulity- “You really aren’t looking for your MOM but some big queen you call MOM – right?” No- I said, slowly realizing to whom I was responding. “I really am looking for my Mom.”

Then in rapid fire breathy dragon voice that sputtered like a typewriter on steroids – “OH MY GOD! If my mother would just even acknowledge my being gay let alone come march with me! COME MARCH WITH ME? I could just die right now and go to heaven. Do you know how lucky you are? I have to meet this WOMAN! MOM! MOM! MOM!”

And almost as soon as he had appeared , so did my mother “Hi Frankie. Who is your friend?” “This is the infamous Harvey Fierstein” I proudly exclaimed (“Points! Points! You are scoring here Harvey raspily whispered”)- “and this is my mother, Willy Jump,”  I continued.  Harvey grabbed my mother around the neck and planted a wet one on her cheeks.

Coincidentally, the two of them would run into each other for the next decade at LGBT events and panel discussions. I ran into Harvey repeatedly over the years from book signings to rides on the subway while he was going to the theatre to perform Torch Song-  to spotting him on Parade floats – always with a warm greeting “HOW’S YOUR MOTHER?”

Harvey! Mother is fine! She says hello!

PFLAG Annual Dinner 1985

PFLAG Annual Dinner 1985

International Gay Games Amsterdam 1996

International Gay Games Amsterdam 1996

PFLAG Annual Dinner 2006

PFLAG Annual Dinner 2005

PFLAG Annual Dinner 2005

PFLAG Annual Dinner 2005

4 responses to “Willy Jump & Amy Ashworth – PFLAG Moms from Nederland

  1. great post from the heart! enjoyed the read man! it’s a shame and hard to imagine that some people could turn their backs on their own children!shame that it would come as a surprise to people that your mom would be there to support you.eye opener to me that a parents love could be conditional.

  2. What really angers me is that many of these “conditional” parents hail from conservative christian backgrounds. Where is the love that was the cornerstone of their prophet’s teachings? My mother would be part of the monthly support meetings for parents (during the 80s-90s) who were coming to terms with their children’s sexuality. If they were there at a meeting, chances are they were ultimately supportive. It is the parents that wouldn’t even think about going that were more likely to throw out their children on the street. I met many young gay kids in the 70s whose parents threw them out, some from “christian” families. Often these kids fell victim to prostitution, homelessness and HIV infection. I’m sure it still happens today.

  3. Hi Frank,
    Your mom was so nice to me when I called, 27 years ago…my God, hard to believe.
    1982, my dad found out and asked me to move out.
    He and mom wouldn’t consider going to a support group. They approached a pscychiatrist who told him if your son doesn’t want to change there is nothing in the world anyone can do. Of course this meant that since I didn’t want to change I was uncooperative….so out you go.
    Fortunately, my dad softened as the years went by and we managed to have a relationship. Not the one I would have loved to have, but he didn’t go to his grave without seeing me grow up.
    I was in Howard Beach 3 years ago helping my mom clean out his belongings when he died of a heart attack. In the midst I got a phone call, a fundraiser from GMHC asking for a donation. I was stunned! Do you realize you are calling Albert and not Bruce? (me) She said yes, Albert. So I asked, have you ever gotten a donation from Albert before? She told me yes, 2 years in a row. I hung up the phone and for the first time since he died I actually cried.
    Times have changed for many and not enough for just as many. Corageous people like your mom made it possible for my partner to light a candle at my nephews bar mitzvah.
    Hats off to her!

  4. Thank you Bruce for that heart felt and personal story. Sometimes it takes people a whole lifetime to come around. I’m sure your Dad loved you very much.

    There are hundreds of thousands of stories like yours. What will it take for our government to protect us from institutionally condoned discrimination that fuels anti-gay violence? I’m glad my mom was there for you when you needed to talk. She worked very hard for almost 25 years and then all of her support system had either died, or lost sons or daughters and lost their drive. PFLAG remains our best ally and lobbying group for equal rights. I will tell Willy you say hello.